Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category

Chile trip, day 1 or 2 or something

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

It’s a little hard to say how far we are into our vacation.  We left Cape on the puddle-jumper to Chicago at noon on Thursday, and then caught a flight to Miami, and then one to Santiago, and then one to La Serena, and then rented a car to drive to Vicuña.   We arrived at our first destination, the Centro Astronómico Alfea Alda, at about 3 PM on Friday.  The trip was more or less uneventful,  though we should have received a flight discount for walking a significant part of the distance to Chile through the airport to get to our connecting flight.

Anyway, we pulled up at the Centro Astronómico, checked into our rooms, and although I was totally exhausted, I couldn’t go to bed.  I had to go out and look at the birds.  The place  is in the Elqui Valley, with desert mountains all around, and has vineyards on most of the property with a few fruit trees and ornamentals.  The place was alive with birds.  The moment I got out of the car, several Chimango Caracaras were shrieking overhead, with others responding from their perches on the vines.

Chimango Caracara

I wandered around the place in a daze for a couple of hours.

Centro Astronomico Alfea Alda

When you’re in a country where you’ve never birded, ever movement in the corner of your eye is a life bird, and it’s hard to focus on one because the others keep popping up.   Peggy joined me — she’s dangerously close to becoming a birder — and we had birds everywhere.   By the time we left for dinner around 5, I had nine new species on my life list (one from lunch in La Serena), and I was pretty sure I’d missed a few others.  The highlight of the day, if I can pick one, was the raucous flock of Burrowing Parakeets (parrots, as far as I’m concerned; they’re 18″ long).   A guy we met on the patio in the Centro was telling us that a flock of these birds destroyed an adobe church nearby by making nest holes in the walls till it collapsed.

Burrowing Parakeet


The next morning I got up and walked around in the winter chill before the sun peeked over the mountains.   Saw a Grassland Yellow-finch, and then as I was looking out the window at breakfast, a Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail.    Hamner, Peggy, Robin and I all wandered around with binoculars looking a birds till noon, then we went to town and bought some souvenirs.     Peggy got a Vicuña eclipse T-shirt that was very nice — have to get a picture later.  And we found a little booth shop where a guy was selling jewelry he makes.  One of the best pieces, which Peggy snapped up, was an intricate thread macramé necklace.  Also possible photo later.

We met a young couple at the Centro yesterday who were from Cambridge (England, that is, not Mass) and who had been working their way up from southern Argentina mainly hitchhiking and camping in a zigzag back and forth between Argentina and Chile.  They left this morning, heading northward for warmer weather.  I was faintly jealous, but sleeping in a bed in a heated room last night reminded me why I don’t do that kind of stuff any more.    We’re resting this afternoon, and then we have an astronomical tour this evening.  Stay tuned!




Monday, January 28th, 2008

First of all, there’s a total eclipse of the moon coming up Feb 20. For those of us in the US, it happens at a fairly convenient time — 9:01 to 9:51 PM CST, but if you want to stay up till 3AM on the 21st, you can see it in Britain too.

The real excitement, though, comes in a mere 9 years — there will be a total eclipse of the sun visible from my own home on August 21, 2017. I’ve never seen one before. But wait! That’s not all! Only 7 years later, on April 8, 2024, there will be another total eclipse of the sun, also visible from my own home. Check it out:

This map shows all the total solar eclipses that will be visible from North America from 2000-2050. The paths of totality for the 2017 and 2024 eclipses cross right over SE Missouri and Southern Illinois. I downloaded google earth maps of these, and highlighted the intersection:


It’s actually not that common for the same place to get two total eclipses within 10 years of each other.   At least, not a place where people live; it’s a bit more likely up in northern Canada, for instance.   Now I’m just hoping for clear skies.